Martians talk taxes in the Fray.

Martians talk taxes in the Fray.

Martians talk taxes in the Fray.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Aug. 8 2004 2:41 PM

Alien Nation

Martians talk taxes in the Fray.

Mars Attacks: A longtime stalwart of Moneybox Fray comes out. PhilfromCalifornia writes:

Speaking as a Martian, [i]f I were to arrive here from Mars, or any other planet, and heard of the Capital Gains Tax Rate, I would assume that what it meant was that a just society had concluded that people who received income without working should pay at a higher tax rate than those who had to work for their money. When I found that it was, in fact, lower than the rate charged on earned income, I would be extremely curious to learn why. I would be told that it is because these investors' funds were at risk. I would have to ask around to find out what risk meant. I would probably be told that working in an explosive or poisonous environment was a risk. I would probably be told that uprooting your family, selling you house, and moving across the country in pursuit of a job which did not have any sort of guarantee (even to the end of the day) was a risk. I would be told that being old and poor was a risk. Only a few people would tell me that investing my surplus funds in an essential company was a risk.

I find you Earthlings curious.

Scott_TOO responds:

Explaining the wisdom of the U.S. tax code would probably drive most of us to want to join them as they leave.

Speaking of taxes, Keifus wonders how John Kerry can avoid Walter Mondale's fate:

How do you sell the idea of raising taxes?

… The Democrats have a decent thing going with "rolling back the tax cut." For the "rich," natch, but I say roll 'em all back. …

Another veiled tax hike might be, "return to 1993-level revenues." Of course, it's hard to promise revenue. Also, it might be better to advertise an even more prosperous time, say 1999 or so, but those revenues would be even harder to match. (This might also be a euphamism for wishful supply-side economic policies.)

Then there's the humorless favorite, "balance the budget," but unfortunately that's become essentially meaningless in politico-speak.

What are your favorites? Points for humor.

Sell it to Keifus here. Though run75441 doesn't specifically address the tax issue, he writes some talking points for John Kerry on the most recent jobs report.

Question of the Day: Moloch-Agonistes offers it here:

Can a free market ever really exist or is it only an excuse used by dominant social groups to prevent the Great U.N. washed from horning in on their action?

M-A's riddle prompts Ferlinghetti to explore the nature of capitalism:

If "capitalism" is simply recognition of the usefulness and power of this highly fungible form of wealth, then there is nothing contradictory about the wealth being deployed according to personal caprice.

Usually, however, "capitalism" includes the related but quite distinct idea of impersonal and mechanistic ("rational") markets, in which individual actors always attempt to maximize their own wealth. Frankly, that's always sounded like a bit of a fairy tale to me (never more so than when listening to economic predictions premised upon it), but I suppose it has had, if not true predictive power, at least a certain mythic power which in turn channels countless individual decisions in predictable ways.

Get in on the conversation here. ... KA 11:25 a.m.

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Thursday, August 5, 2004

A Fly on the Wall: In an effort to spin off Supreme Court Dispatches, Thrasymachus gives us an inside peek from Montgomery with Alabama Senate Dispatches. His first dispatch?

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE ALABAMA STATE SENATE, ON THE MATTER OF SENATE BILL 98-666, BANNING SEX TOYS.

But back to the operative question, so to speak, is banning sex toys unconstitutional?

JRudkis insists that "stupid laws are constitutional":

Time place and manner restrictions are allowed even for speech, and this law deals with commercial enterprise. Alabama citizens are allowed to own and use these devices, and they are able to purchase them out of state, or through catalogs and the internet. If Alabama wants to send all of its potential sex commerce out of state (and there is probably a lot since Alabama men wanted a law to keep themselves "needed"), we should rejoice and hope that the sexshops in our own states get to pick up the business.

JR is very enterprising:

I just registered alabamasextoys.com just to get a piece of the action.

BenK's take is less utilitarian:

I still think that the privacy of relationships argument would protect things like duals ... two people who decide to enter into a fight to the death, without endangering other people or involving them, without any commercial application (so unlike prostitution), simple, private violence.

It would also prevent the government from interfering in domestic violence unless the victim brought charges or was clearly being coerced into not bringing charges.

But our nation doesn't work this way. There are many private things, aspects of relationships, that are forbidden. And most of these laws are for the good of the public, either morally, or in terms of safety, or because the rare "healthy" instance is outweighed by the many "unhealthy" cases in which one party is not acting out of free will, but through subtle coercion.

To GratiutiousPython here, "the greatest device for the stimulation of human genital organs has got to be the human mind. Will they be outlawing that next?" And we get an ag report from baltimore-auerole:

Alabama cucumber farmers sue to overturn law which may result in their crops being declared illegal under state law.

Everyday Economists, where do you place the over-under for "the sales tax dollars [lost] by the purchase of sex toys" outside of Alabama (or on the internet) by Alabamians? Click on MichaelAK's post here.

Air Tight: TheAList offers the best brief case for gay marriage I've seen anywhere.

Fray Almanac: Today's three busiest Frays (number of postings) according to technical reports? 1) Ballot Box Fray, 2) Today's Papers Fray, 3) Politics FrayKA 4:10 p.m.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2004

From Where It Stems: Though a solid Kerry voter, gthomson has a measure of sympathy and respect for President Bush on the issue of stem cell research. Why?

During his campaign, Bush consistently spoke for a total ban on funding for ESC research, on ethical/moral grounds. That was his honestly-stated position from the beginning. However, once in office, he rethought the issue, and entered a period of intense contemplation in which he read everything he could on the issue and consulted with everyone he could think of. Some may find this difficult to believe, but Bush not only studied the issue intensely and solicited feedback from all sides of the debate, but eventually admitted he had been too inflexible and changed his mind…

It's also important to remember that Bush's decision was perceived to be a politically risky move, certain to alienate a significant portion of his own base…

It's ironic now that this issue seems, in 2004, after Bush made what appeared to be an agonizing compromise certain to displease a significant portion of his core supporters, to be turning into a political trump card for the Democrats. Ron Reagan portrays Bush's stem cell policy as rigidly determined by ideology, when in fact he had made an effort to find a compromise consistent with his own beliefs and the many conflicting interests at stake.

Unlike gt, most Democrats are unlikely to cut Bush any slack because the issue is too politically profitable for Kerry. According to GratuitousPython here, stem cell research is "the Democratic answer to late-term abortion." To faithbased1 here, the issue is being conflated by partisans and secularists. The very term "stem cell research" is problematic:

we are actually talking about something far more specific: federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The Democrats are trying to use this as a wedge issue, implying that Bush is denying treatment to those who suffer from Parkinsons, etc. This is false at best. Adult stem cells are in fact treating people with diseases successfully, and there is no doubt as to the potential of such medicine since it has a track record.

Embryonic stem cells are a different story, however. Nobody has been cured of any disease as a result of harvesting stem cells from embryos, and in fact, Bush did allow continued federal funding of embryonic stem cell research on existing lines (60 or 21, depending on whom you might believe) and none have proven to be life savers in the three years since his announcement.

Kardinal elaborates on the embryonic vs. adult delineation. Fray biologists, does Kardinal have it right? Click here to discuss.

 Joe_JP seems to suggest that stem cell research is the prism through which Kerry and the Democrats can refocus a whole band of social issues:

And in a broader sense, a more nuanced moral understanding of the world we live in, including not limiting the "health and well being of the many" for the beliefs of the few. Not just scientific research, but abortion, condom use, euthanasia, homosexuality, medicinal marijuana, and a lot more is at stake. A simplistic view of public values, one that all too often interferes with the rights of others with a contrasting moral belief system that deserves equal respect in this nation (and sometimes internationally as well), mixed with partisan politics is just one more reason to vote the current bunch out of power.

Is it possible, both in the short and long run, for secular humanists to use stem cell research as a means to move public sentiment on other flashpoints such as homosexuality and marijuana? Enter Chatterbox Fray to discuss ... KA 9:05 a.m.

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Monday, August 2, 2004

Since the advent of the Fray during the last administration, dozens of Fraysters have taken to the blogosphere. Some fray legends have continued to perform double duty — continuing to post regularly on the Fray while maintaining their blogs — while others dedicate the lion's share of their labor to their new outfit. However and wherever they publish, these Fray alumni continue to author informative stuff for public consumption. What are they writing about? Let's look in on a few…

AGAndroid continues to maintain one of the most active political blogs on the web. You can find out what's going on in the political media by clicking here.

Dan­_Simon's "I Could Be Wrong" focuses on current affairs and has a special affinity for issues of free speech and free press. A couple of weeks back, DS took a swipe at Slate's legal coverage, insisting that…

Slate seems these days to be on a one-publication crusade to gut the criminal justice system. First, Stanford law professor Robert Weisberg, whom I've ridiculed in the past, published a bizarre, incoherent anti-death-penalty article with the apparent theme that because the death penalty makes many people feel uneasy, it will therefore always....uh....make many people feel uneasy….

Five days later came defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, who had only a month earlier decried Ronald Reagan's "pernicious impact on the federal judicial system", in the form of the "unforgiving legislation" with which he "sought to smite what he perceived as the criminal menace." This time, Shragel was crowing victoriously about the "unprecedented chaos and procedural paralysis" created by the US Supreme Court's recent Blakely decision, which struck down one of Shargel's least favorite Reagan-era initiatives, the federal sentencing guidelines. To anyone other than a defense lawyer, the prospect of chaos in the criminal justice system might seem a trifle alarming, but apparently the editors at Slate find the defense bar's naked enthusiasm for mayhem to be far more compelling fare.

In between Weisberg and Shargel--that's three pro-leniency articles in a five-day span--came law student Dana Mulhauser, who echoed the standard complaint about the now-stricken-down federal sentencing guidelines: "the results have been Draconian", because "legislatures....tend to be punishment-happy"…

How about Dilan_Esper? "One Person's Opinion" has been exploring the political origins of the "Overture of 1812." What's MsZilla been up to? A little summer horticulture and southern exposure:

I met my first magnolia trees recently. From a confirmed northerner's standpoint, these things were vague fictional ideas and wafting scents as you go by the cosmetics counters. You only see them through those plastic floral arrangements my Gramma used to keep in her bathroom…

Check out her blog here. Betty_the_Crow and locdog have been performing double duty with both the Fray and their respective blogs. Here's the Sunday BTC News:

It seems as though the political and philosophical opposition to Arafat, or at least to the fruits of his reign, are much more vocal and more willing to risk what they have than are Sharon's liberal opponents…

And here's Locdog's blog on Howard Dean's emergence as the "Kerry's pit bull":

dean is still out there on news shows spouting off dangerously irresponsible rhetoric on kerry's behalf. if kerry really wanted to distance himself from dean, he would have issued the sort of scathing condemnation that dean's idiotic comments warrant--should, in fact, if for no other reason than political expediency alone.

Two of the Fray's newer bloggers, Geoff and TheAList, have been active. Geoff's "Friday Horse Race" on his blog is a solid source for tracking the latest national and sate polls. And TheAList delves into one of his pet issues — missile defense — on The A List blog:

No nuclear missle defense system can ever possibly work. Not ever.

Period.

Why? Because it would be defending against nuclear weapons.

It would take about 5 successful nuclear ballistic missle strikes near major population centers in the continental United States to end US civilization as we know it. A system designed to combat 1000 nukes would have to be at least 99.5% effective to not result in the end of the United States. A system combatting 100 nukes would need to be 95% effective.  Can you think of any military program that has ever approached 90% effectiveness? Neither can I.

Got a blog? Register it here.

New Club Invitees: gthomson, JRudkis, notmyjob, MonsterDog, socal_baseball_fan … KA 2:55 p.m.

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Friday, July 30, 2004

How did John Kerry do? Let's ask zinya, who has long been the most expressive advocate for Kerry on the Fray. In response to a thread headed by QuiTam here, zinya declares:

What matters in a speech like this is the gestalt of it... and the gestalt of it was indeed 5 stars, QT ... "my guy" (well, okay, Teresa's guy :) did us all wonderfully well tonight with such uplifting vision of social and moral purpose, turning our backs decidedly on the dark intrigues of fear and backroom corruption -- with his well-toned checkmarks against the Halliburton and Enron tribe -- but only as pinpointed counterings which dramatized JUST how much Kerry is the leader of hope and help and vision and honor.

I'm one thrilled supporter!

Kerry partisans may be delighted but DamnRight reminds us:

You're already in his camp; therefore, it doesn't matter that you found the speech moving and wonderful and just what you wanted to hear. What's important to Kerry and his campaign staff is, what does someone like me, an undecided conservative voter in New Hampshire, think about his speech?

Did Kerry's message hit with the Fray's demographically ideal swing voter? Click here to find out.

How did Kerry's words do with the Nader audience? Yasfort,who confesses that "Ralph Nader was getting my vote providing he was on the ballot," was swayed by Kerry and the other speeches at the convention:

those who are not connected, who haven't inherited fortunes, who live by our paychecks and our efforts and our optimism that our country is, indeed, the land of opportunity, need people on the inside. I believe that the words I've heard from these people come from their heads and their hearts without code or artifice and that's why I'm voting for the Democrats in November. Sorry, Ralph.

Was the Democrats' strategy to stay above the fray all week merely an attempt to allow Kerry a broadside whack at the piñata? Over in Ballot Box Fray, Both The_Bell here and Poindexter think so:

All week long--with a pre-prime time digression from Rev. Sharpton--the Dem speakers who would normally be expected to pillar the prez kept the anti-BUSH rhetoric in check. That was allegedly the script. Don't be negative. Stay on message. Even Edwards, who in the traditional role of VP nominee should have been serving up the red meat so that Kerry could appear relatively "presidential," came across like an alterboy. By the end of the week, the delegates' underlying rage and their frustration at not having been given a meaningful outlet for it was palpable. Then along came Kerry to tell them what they wanted to hear all along and their raucous reaction made his heavily partisan remarks come across as more a sincere expression of what needed to be said … And it made Kerry appear to be the only one in all of Beantown with the courage to note that the emperor has no clothes, just what a northeastern liberal needed to do to undermine the stereotype.

What about the substance? Modicum gave the speech a listen and found that…

His budgetary agenda can be lumped into three broad categories and one of them has to give: (1) raise taxes on corporations and the rich while cutting taxes on the middle class; (2) implement or increase funding for a plethora of social programs; and (3) implement pay-as-you-go spending limits to halve the deficit. There isn't a deep enough well of tax increases for the rich and corporations, without bringing down growth, to pay both for middle class tax cuts and the long list of social programs, so one of these three has to give in order to have the other two. Kerry has left the door as wide open to criticism on this score as Bush has on foreign policy.

This combination of economic and social platforms reads like old-school, big-government Democrat platforms from way back before Clinton pulled the party more to the center. No Democratic presidential candidate has won with this kind of agenda since Johnson…

Did Kerry reclaim values, patriotism and integrity only to forfeit ground on domestic spending? Speak your mind here.

Speaking of values and patriotism, zathras titles his post "John Kerry, Republican?" Here's z:

After going four days with every speaker trying to avoid mentioning Republicans leaders by name, the Democrats practically fell over themselves trying to imitate them.

The most obvious thing they did was write out for John Kerry a call and response thing that copied Dick Cheney's speech at the GOP convention four years ago. "Help is on the way," Cheney told a military community supposedly neglected by Bill Clinton's Democrats…

More than the rhetoric of some convention speakers (I can just imagine some terrorist watching John Edwards say "we will destroy you" and thinking to himself "How about this? I'm having my life threatened by Richie Cunningham") all the flags and the veterans in full and partial uniform don't just visually resemble the images of the last several Republican conventions. The images send a message about Democratic values aimed at obscuring the message sent by Democratic positions on issues.

Betty_the_Crow offers a response to z here on the Democrats' longstanding "'soft of defense' rap." … KA8:40 a.m.